What can help increase longevity? We increase longevity by giving the cells more energy, increasing their telomere length, boosting the immune system, repairing DNA, and stimulating certain genes which foster longevity.[i]
Many people from ancient times till now have dreamed of a spring of waters with the power to restore youth to the aging. Throughout recorded history, myths and legends about such a Fountain of Youth have popped in and out, inspiring epic searches. Perhaps the most famous seeker was the 16th century Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon. In 1513, while Governor of Puerto Rico, he journeyed to Florida, supposedly the geographic site of such miraculous waters. What did he find? Nada.
Today, researchers are conducting an exploration into the geography of the cell to find the secret of extended youth. Each cell is a kind of factory for life, with different departments performing different tasks. Just as factories depend on management to regulate activities, power sources to keep going, and the capacity for internal and external communication to keep everything moving smoothly, so do cells.
Every cell in the body relies on a critical molecule for successful regulation, power, and bio- communication. It is a coenzyme called nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+). It is of special interest to scientists because it helps convert nutrients into cellular energy (metabolism) and it also plays a role in adding or removing chemical groups to or from proteins that regulate activities in the cellular factory’s other “departments.”
An enormous amount of complicated activity occurs in and around NAD+, from the atomic level (transfer of electrons) to biochemical processes by which it is synthesized, performs its responsibilities, is broken down, salvaged, and recycled. NAD+ is also directly connected to the health of the mitochondria, the internal structures that generate most of the biochemical energy that fuels many of the cell’s “departments.”
Mitochondria, aging and NAD+
There is a saying that getting old is not for sissies. After midlife, there’s a steady creep in the breakdown of virtually every structure and system in the body. We see and experience the obvious effects, but what we don’t realize is that after age 40, levels of NAD+ are dropping off while at the same time mitochondria are starting to deteriorate. We now believe that the decline in NAD+, a key element in mitochondrial energy production, is a causal factor in the dysfunction of mitochondrial DNA that results in what we experience as aging. What we call the homeostasis or internal balance of the cell is thrown off. It’s as if the factory is becoming decrepit and the internal machinery is breaking down.
On the other hand, recent studies have focused on a group of proteins called the sirtuin proteins (SIRTs). These proteins appear to be related to processes that regulate aging, and some are found in the mitochondria. NAD+ fuels their activity, and it is thought that if its levels can be normalized, it could help slow down the negative effects of aging in the cells themselves, and processes throughout the body.
Thus, the scientific community is looking for ways to maintain NAD+ levels. Diet plays a large role in providing the body what it needs to synthesize NAD+. These are called precursors because they are like building blocks for the coenzyme; simple precursors include the amino acids tryptophan and aspartic acid (found in foods rich in protein), while more complex salvage processes utilize three vitamin precursors that are bioavailable to the body through vitamin B3 (niacin). One vitamin precursor in particular, NR (nicotinamide riboside), is thought to be a highly efficient route to NAD+. However, after age 40, levels of a certain enzyme called CD38 begin to rise. CD38 has the effect of breaking down NAD+, so diet alone does not preserve the necessary level.
Can supplements help?
Numerous animal and human studies are ongoing to determine the best way to raise NAD+ levels when diminishment begins. Supplements are considered the most promising approach. The problem is not getting the precursors into the blood, but delivering them into individual cells in a form that they can synthesize NAD+ efficiently. This may involve not only providing the precursors, but blocking the destructive action of CD38 at the same time.
Some such products are already available for purchase, but there is not yet substantive evidence that they actually accomplish the goal, nor what their long term effects might be. The Sperling Prostate Center strongly recommends that you discuss any supplements with your doctor before starting on them.
The truth is, researchers who are exploring the geography of the cell have not yet uncovered the secret to translating the NAD+ theory into practice. However, there is enormous excitement as well as hope that we are on the threshold of tapping into a molecular “fountain of youth.” Time will tell—and perhaps sooner than we think.
NOTE: This content is solely for purposes of information and does not substitute for diagnostic or medical advice. Talk to your doctor if you are experiencing pelvic pain, or have any other health concerns or questions of a personal medical nature.
[i] “NAD the secret of life and aging! introducing our advanced cellular repair division.” Institute of Regenerative Medicine. Mar. 2, 2019. https://stemcellorthopedic.com/nad-the-secrete-of-life-and-aging-introducing-our-advanced-cellular-repair-division/